Book Arts

Exhibition in the Artists’ Books Study Area at the Library
School of Art, Media and Design, UWE Bristol:
Sitting Room : An Exhibition of Artists’ Books
Curated by Tom Sowden and Lucy May Schofield
21st August – 21st September 2007
Sitting Room was conceived between Lucy May Schofield and myself as we discussed and developed the idea of curating an exhibition of artists’ books together. We both wanted to present a show where we could lose the preciousness that can surround an artist’s book. Let them become the tactile and interactive objects that they are usually conceived as being. Take them out of glass cases, out of libraries and away from the artist’s book fairs, resituating them in an environment that was conducive to reading and engaging with the books.


To both of us and to many who choose to work with the book form, handling is of prime importance. The ideas and experience are only available to a viewer if it is picked up and leafed through. We felt we had to create an easier atmosphere for the visitor to spend time with the books. In discussing the components that we would like in the show (comfy chairs, rug, lamps, bookcase or shelves) we quickly realised that what we were hoping to re-create was a sitting room, or perhaps more specifically the impression of a sitting room from a bygone age.

We both felt that there needed to be an older feel to room. We were attempting to try and reproduce a sitting room from a time when books were read rather than TV being watched. When there was more of a culture of reading and storytelling amongst family members. So the furniture was bought, begged or borrowed to represent a generic period that spanned from Edwardian to the 1960s, a mish-mash of items from the first half of the 20th Century.

Inviting artists to take part has been done in two stages. Firstly for the exhibition at Manchester Craft and Design Centre we invited people we knew, or whose work we had seen, to see if they would like to take part. We asked them to send us books, either made specially or already in existence, that in some way represented the theme and title of the show, Sitting Room. In this first round we received about 70 books.


After the first show, and knowing that the next venue at Alsager Arts Centre was much larger, we put a call for entries in Artist’s Newsletter to try and increase the amount of books. We asked for people to submit proposals and then selected those that we thought best fitted into the show. After this process we then had around 120 books.

Sitting Room is a touring exhibition and will continue it’s journey nationally and internationally until late 2007. Each venue presents a different challenge. The differences arise with amount and shape of the space, but in each we have more or less the same furniture and try to stick to the principles that this is a re-created sitting room, a stage set and not an actual room.

The general feedback so far has been very positive. In quite a few venues the exhibition became a refuge for many people at lunchtime. A space to relax, ignore work and absorb the books. This is not an exhibition that can accommodate large numbers, like a sitting room it feels full with more than four people in it. Neither is this is a quick view exhibition, it requires time to be able to explore.

Tom Sowden

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